China sees drop in new virus cases, two Japan cruise passengers die
China reported a big drop in new coronavirus cases on Thursday, fuelling hopes the epidemic is nearing its peak, but Japan faced a growing crisis as two passengers from a quarantined cruise ship died.
The death toll rose in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases there in nearly a month, including in the hardest-hit province, Hubei.
More than 74,000 people have been infected in China and hundreds more in some 25 countries, with Iran reporting two deaths, the first fatalities in the Middle East.
In Japan, a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard the Diamond Princess have died, local media reported, citing a government source.
A World Health Organization official noted the progress in China but warned it had not reached a turning point just yet.
Chinese officials said this week that their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in other cities nationwide, have started to pay off.
“After arduous efforts, the situation is changing for the better,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a meeting with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos late Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Hubei and its capital Wuhan — where the virus is believed to have emerged in December — are still “severely affected” by the epidemic, Wang said.
“But the situation is under effective control, while other regions are embracing comforting news,” he said.
– ‘Not turning point’ –
More than 600 new infections were reported in Wuhan — the lowest daily tally since late January, and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.
The national figure has now fallen for three days in a row.
Chinese authorities placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of Hubei in the days that followed.
Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their houses for groceries, while villages have sealed themselves off from outsiders.
Richard Brennan, regional emergency director at the World Health Organization, said China was making “tremendous progress in a short period of time” but cautioned that it was not over just yet.